Religion Needs Symbols

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We think we need a cross and even a bell to tell folks; Hey we’re a church. I even knew one pastor who was critical of a small house group meeting in what he thought was his God given area because the didn’t have a cross. “How can they be a church they don’t even have a cross;” he exclaimed.

We have crosses on the building and in the building; sometimes on the pulpit and hanging on the wall behind the pulpit but is that what makes us a church. Reality, Jesus only has one Church and it’s us; we are the building God is building and it’s Christ IN us Who reveals who we are and not a cross on our steeple are hanging on a necklace around our neck. It’s our love for the brethren that reveals we are the children of God; that we are His disciples. (John 13:34-35; 17:20-21)

 

Lasting Beauty

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All the outward things we see and enjoy will pass away the real beauty, the lasting beauty is found in the joy of being a part of God’s New Creation, where old things, worthless things have all past away and IN Christ all things have become New.The beauty God has revealed to us IN the Son is a lasting beauty that will not fade away with time but is ours to enjoy for eternity. Ain’t God Awesome?

God’s Love Revealed

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God has given us so much beauty to enjoy in His creation, the flowers, the trees, the oceans and seas, and seeing the rising sun. But nothing matches the beauty of His great love as revealed IN the Rising of His Son the the lives of all who believe.

The Greater Than Solomon Has Come

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The Greater Than Solomon Has Come

Lately I’ve been wondering about some of the ways we the New Testament Church use Old Testament Scriptures in what sounds like a good way, but in reality could be very misleading to immature believers. I believe that one of the greatest problems facing the Church is educating both new and old believers as to who we are in Christ and just what He has accomplished for us. But many of us seem to like to hang out in the Old Testament picture story book instead of moving on into the reality that is in Christ. (I’m not saying here we should not read the Old Testament, but that we should not live in the Old but in the New). A classic example that I can remember is having people pray that I would supernaturally receive the wisdom of Solomon, sounds good, huh? We all know the Old Testament speaks of Solomon as being the wisest man who ever lived, but if we read the New we also know that in Christ a “Greater than Solomon has come” (Matt. 12:42). Paul teaches us in very clear words that “of Him you are in Christ Jesus, Who became for us the wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor.1:30). The Greater than Solomon lives within me by the Holy Spirit why do I still need the wisdom of Solomon, I just have to by faith believe and accept what I have in Christ, and again by faith begin to believe that wisdom resides in me. Does that mean I reject the Book of Proverbs? No, there is still much to be gleaned from Solomon’s writings, but Solomon’s wisdom failed as he turned from God’s truth to follow the desires of his flesh, the wisdom that resides within me is eternal as I allow the Lordship of the Spirit’s working in my life.

Since I became a Bapticostal charismatic type person back in the 80′s I’ve heard over and over about the Elijah generation as well as the Spirit of Elijah coming upon believers for the ministry of reconciliation. But as sacred as that cow might be it must be questioned in light of New Testament revelation. First of all Jesus never promised me greater works than  Elijah, He promised me in John 14:12, “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” Wow! The Greater than Elijah has come and promised me that I would do greater works, not greater than Elijah’s, but greater than the works Jesus did! If I ever stand in your prayer line please pray that I receive the greater works than Christ anointing, for the Greater One has come. We must remember that the verses that speak of God sending Elijah the prophet was written to the Old covenant back-sliding nation of Israel and were fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist who came to turn the hearts of the children back to the God of their fathers. This is shown clearly in Scripture, first in Luke’s Gospel as the angel of the Lord (Gabriel) as he spoke to Zacharias John’s father.

“He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the      fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17). Which was to become the fulfillment of what Mal. 4:5-6 spoke of.

Also in Matt. 11:14; Jesus in speaking of the ministry of John the Baptist told His disciples, “And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.” Out of the New Testament Scripture both Gabriel and Jesus spoke of John as the fulfillment of that Old Testament prophecy. But you might say, ” Elijah’s ministry is the ministry of reconciliation to turn the hearts of the fathers toward the children and the hearts of the children toward the fathers.” True, but in the New Testament the greatest reconciliation is in the person of Jesus and what He has accomplish for us in the Atonement. Our reconciliation is in Christ, and in Christ we are all ministers of reconciliation. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” so the ministry of reconciliation is not reserved for some elite Elijah company of saints, but all believers are to minister in this capacity, or anointing. What do we really want, an Elijah generation,or a Jesus Generation, and Elijah, or even an Elisha double portion anointing, or a Peter or Paul anointing, or even better a greater works than Jesus anointing? True Elijah and Elisha both did mighty works in Old Covenant Israel, but the Early Church turned the known world of their day upside down in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Jesus anointing. (Have you ever wondered why no one ever wants a John the Baptist type ministry, even though Jesus spoke of him as the greatest prophet the Old Testament brought forth? Perhaps, just maybe, it’s because he lost his head. The same Jezebel spirit who tried to kill Elijah, killed the last of the Old Testament prophets and IN Christ a new day dawns).

Another popular teaching is on Joel’s Army. I don’t know why we can’t have a Jesus Army, or a Peter or Paul Army, but for some reason it has to be Joel’s Army. I remember in the 80′s and early 90′s almost every Sunday we sang “Blow the Trumpet in Zion, Sound and Alarm on My Holy Mountain,” it was great and we all danced and got happy, sometimes we even had a run away or two, but the reality of Joel’s Scripture was much different than what we imagined, or thought it to be. I don’t care how many times I read Joel chapters one and two they still say that the reason the trumpet was being blown in Zion was to call God’s people, apostate Israel to repentance before God sent His army of heathens to execute His wrath upon the nation. That’s not some great Christian army climbing on the walls like men of war, in chapter one it’s an invasion of locusts, and in chapter two it’s probably a picture of the mighty Roman army under Titus who fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy of Matt. 24 on the nation of Israel. The days of God’s vengeance spoken of in Luke 21:20-22. Yes, we are the army of God, we are His mighty army, but not the one spoken of in Joel’s prophecy, more like the one who follows the Lamb wherever He goes in Rev. 14:4, or the army in Rev. 19:11-16. We are an army that triumphs in the victory already won and attained for us in Christ, because He won we win. “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). The Old Testament type makes for  good and exciting preaching, but the New Testament reality gives me faith to disciple nations.

 

Recently I read a prophetic word that God was going to raise up another Moses to lead His people out of the wilderness. But again we deal with the same issue as before. the Greater Than Moses has come. Moses was not able to lead the Old Testament congregation out of the wilderness, but Jesus the Prophet like Moses not only has come, and in Him we are already in the land, we just need to renew our thinking a little (a whole lot) to realize just who we are in Him and what He has already accomplished for us in His death, burial, resurrection, and the pouring out of His Holy Spirit. So I ask you what do you want the spirit of Elijah, or the Greater works of Christ, a Joel’s Army, or to follow the Lamb wherever He goes? I no longer want to live in the types and shadows I want to live and minister in the reality that is Christ.

 

 

Speaking The Truth In Love

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Speaking The Truth In Love

Paul encouraged the believers in Ephesus to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15; then when on to say: “We are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ.”

Since I been a Christian people have told me speak truth but be careful if it sounds harsh or corrective don’t speak it because you won’t show love. I ask is that what Paul was saying here? One thing I see in Eh.4:15 was that Paul wanted us to grow up in all aspect into Christ Who Himself always spoke the truth in love. He is Truth for Him to speak anything other than truth would make Him out to be a liar and He also is Love for all the attributes of the Father dwell within Him. Many times in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus He spoke pretty strongly to the religious crowd was that because He hated them and wanted to rebuke them? No! Jesus didn’t hate the Scribes and Pharisees He hated their religious system and their hypocrisy of preaching one thing and doing the opposite. He loved and in Love He also brought correction and sometimes rebuke.

God loves us and for believers His love is revealed in the fact that He disciplines us. We see that in Hebrews 12:4-8:

New King James Version (NKJV)

4.You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;6. For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” 7. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8. But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”

So does God’s discipline prove or disprove His love for us? According to the writer of Hebrews the fact He disciplines is proof of His love in fact the writer says: “But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”

How about Paul who of all the New Testament writers taught us about the New Covenant and of the amazing grace of God that bring us by faith into God’s New Covenant reality? Paul many times in dealing with the infant 1st Century churches not only wrote words of encouragement and sound doctrine to them but many times gave them strong correction even rebuke. Did Paul love them any the less when he gave them correction or even rebukes them? No! It was out of his deep love for them that he did this. Good examples of this can be found in Paul’s letters to the Church at Corinth and of course his letter to the Churches in the region of Galatia.

Simply put if we love someone we speak the truth to them out of that love even if they don’t like it or don’t want to hear it. Many times our own children don’t want to hear what we’re saying but out of love don’t we correct and even discipline them? Paul wrote this to the Church in Corinth: “I do not write this to shame you, but to warn and counsel you as my beloved children.” (1 Cor. 5:14)

The writer of Hebrews said this concerning our Lord Jesus: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Heb. 2:10) Jesus, the Perfect One, the One the Father said “This is My Beloved Son in whom I Am well pleased” learned obedience through the things He suffered. How much so those of us who have prayed earnestly “Oh to be more like Jesus” should expect to have to endure some things in this life? But know this that as God takes all of our situations and circumstance many have to endure even daily He is using those for a purpose that we might be conformed into the image of His Dear Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

Romans 8:28-29

New King James Version (NKJV)

28. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

The Weapons Of Our Warfare

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 Burning copies of the Koran a weapon of the flesh or of the Spirit?

2 Cor. 10:3-4;  3. For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.
4. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,

Now read this quote from the news; “A controversial Florida pastor has burned copies of the Koran and a depiction of the prophet Mohammed to protest the imprisonment in Iran of a Christian clergyman Youcef Nadarkhani.

The burning, attended by 20 people and streamed live over the Internet, was carried out by pastor Terry Jones’ church in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, The Gainesville Sun said, and video of the burning was uploaded to YouTube by the pastor’s supporting group “Stand Up America Now.”

Was this purely an exercise of the flesh or was this using the weapons given us by God for bringing Light into the darkness.
You might say but in Ephesus the people brought their demonic books and burned them; but that was people who had repented and turned to God a different situation. In Ephesus it was the Word that grew mightily and prevailed not the works of men.

We need to pray for the safety of this Iranian brother, Youcef Nadarkhani, that he will not be harmed due to this foolish act of the Floria pastor and that God by His Spirit will turn this thing to the good.

“It’s not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord.”

The Face Of Extravagant Religion

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Below is the altar area of a Catholic Church in Lima, Peru as you can see everything is gold plated and on the altar itself Jesus has the lowest place with Mary and one of the saints placed higher. No comment on that it’s too obvious but under the picture I do ask a couple of questions on how the Church not only in Peru but America and in the nations use the money they bring in every year.

What if the Catholic church in Lima, Peru had spent the money used in gold plating their altar to feed those living in poverty right outside their doors?

What if the Church in America were to use the billions they spend on new lands and bigger building with all their creature comforts to feed the poor in America instead of all the materialistic things we indulge in, so we can worship in comfort?

Is the heart of God that we build beautiful buildings or that people see our good works and glory God? Are we too be salt and light or worship in comfort when others do with the basic necessities? Some of those being the believers in Islamic or other nations where they face the threat of death or imprisonment daily for the Gospel’s sake.

Face Book Posts

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Sorry I am working a hard schedule (tentmaking) the next few months and just don’t have time to post are respond. Going to start doing more of what my my blogs supposed to be about; stop preaching at you and post my thoughts on the King and the Kingdom.

2012-4-16

17 However, let him who boasts and glories boast and glory in the Lord.

18 For [it is] not [the man] who praises and commends himself who is approved
and accepted, but [it is the person] whom the Lord accredits and commends.
(2 Cor. 10:17-18 Amp. Bible)

The proof or testimony of your apostleship is by the evidence of His grace on your life not in how many books you’ve written or your wonderful platform presence.

2012-4-17

Acts 19 the story of Paul at Ephesus.

Ephesus was as demonic a city in Paul’s day as you’d ever want to find; yet in building and establishing “The Church” (not churches) at Ephesus Paul never once called for a prayer march by the believing saints, not did he schedule a spiritual warfare conference with all the big name leaders from the apostolic movement to come and teach the believers how to do spiritual warfare. He knew The Victory was already his (ours as well) in Christ so Paul operating in apostolic grace preached Christ and guess what? “God performed extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul” and “The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed!”

Paul’s Message should be our message; Him We Preach (Col.1:28)

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Paul’s Message should be our message; Him We Preach (Col.1:28)

2 Corinthians 4:3-6
The Message (MSG)

3-4 If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.

5-6Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

God promised to fill the earth with His glory and the prophets prophesied that the earth would be filled with the knowledge of His glory. Now if it is true that the face, the very glory of God is revealed IN Christ; what then should our message be?

Stop preaching to me your deep theology, stop trying to impress me with your knowledge of Greek and Hebrew; if you really want to impress me, impress me with your personal intimate knowledge of Christ; He is the Message preach Him.

Jesus Was Born A King

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Jesus will not someday become a King; He was born a King. To deny His Kingship is too deny who He is. To deny His virgin birth, to deny or to put off His Kingdom of which Scripture says we have become a part off is not only to deny Him but also His Father who sent Him. The world may say we are weak and foolish to believe but not so; who is a fool but the one who denies there is a God?

The Kingdom Of God; Luke 17:20-21

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The Kingdom of God!

Did Jesus, Peter, Paul or any other New Testament writer put off the kingdom some 2000 or more years?

Lk. 17:20-21 Amplified Text

20. When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied to them by saying, “The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display,

21. Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! Or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].”

The kingdom of God is not coming

With Outward signs to be observed!

It will not be some spectacular Event

To be viewed by all.

In fact Jesus told His listeners

The kingdom was already there In Their Midst. Where the King is there you’ll find the Kingdom.

Graciously, the Father has chosen to give us not only the Holy Spirit but in doing so He gives us the Kingdom of God. Plain and simple God is a Giver, He gives us the Spirit and the Kingdom. We can’t earn them and we definitely can’t take by force what the Father so freely gives those who receive His Son.

 Lk. 12: 31-32 Amplified Text

31. Only aim at and strive for and seek His kingdom, and all these things shall be supplied to you also.

32. Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!

 NOTE: We are told here and in Matthew’s Gospel to seek the Kingdom and that the Father’s good pleasure is to give us the Kingdom but where does it say as many teach does Jesus or any other New Testament writer tell us we must take the Kingdom by force? It just ain’t there! Read Matt. 11:11-19 in it’s proper time frame and then ask did Jesus tell us as New Covenant believers to take the Kingdom by force?

Paul the great apostolic writer said something in Rom. 14:17 that many of us have not caught. He tells us where the Kingdom is to be found and what is the evidence of the Kingdom in the lives of those who believe. If we grasp what Paul is saying then we’ll not get caught up in so much Kingdom speculation as to the timing or the place of the Kingdom, and we’ll gain a greater understanding of the evidence of Life of the Spirit in the lives of those who believe. Quite simply Life IN the Kingdom is Living Life in the Spirit.

Rom.14:17 Amplified Text

17. [After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Rom. 14:17 NKJ

17. For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

We find much teaching in New Testament Scripture concerning the Comforter who was to come, but somehow we’ve not all seem to grasp the Kingdom in Light of the Indwelling Spirit. We put the Kingdom off to someday way off in the future and have never realized all that God has already given us, how much He has blessed us with by the Indwelling Spirit of Christ our Lord and Savior. Both Peter and Paul in their writing made very clear that the inauguration of the Kingdom and the Resurrection were part of the same event. Peter not only quoted from David (Acts 2:22-35) as to the timing of the Kingdom he boldly declared that: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).

Paul in Rom. 1:4 declared Jesus to be the “Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead!” Jesus’ own words to His disciples in Matt. 28:18; And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Consider this; if ALL AUTHORITY has already been given to Christ, how can He receive more or greater authority in some make believe future Kingdom, His Kingdom is now, His authority is now, not someday.

 

Paul also told us that their message the word they preached was “The Good News of the promises made to the fathers.” He goes on to say that; “God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the 2nd Psalm, ‘You are My Son; Today I have begotten You’ (Acts 13:32-33). If you read the 2nd Psalm you’ll find a sequence of events that unfold right up to the Enthronement of the Christ, God’s King His Anointed One; in verse six, and then in verse seven we see when it happened just as Paul revealed to his 1st Century readers by a revelation of the Spirit, at Christ’s resurrection. The 1st Century apostolic writers knew that the outpouring on the Day of Pentecost was the sign of the Kingdom, yet today many of our apostolic and prophetic writers want to put the Kingdom off till His 2nd coming. How can we possibly call Him the King of kings and the Lord of lords IF we put His Kingdom off to some future date?

If you’ve followed Peter’s apostolic mandate in Acts 2:38 and repented, being baptized for the remission of your sins then as promised in Scripture you’ve received the promised gift of the Spirit and you are a part of the Kingdom of God!

 “Unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 4:3)

Let’s continue with some more of Peter’s understanding of the kingdom in a remark he made concerning the Church in 1 Peter 2:9. In verses 6-8 of this chapter Peter quotes from the words of Christ in Matt. 21:42;44 then in verse 9 Peter calls the believers “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” This promise was given the nation of Israel in Exodus 19:5-6 on the condition they “indeed obey His voice and keep His Covenant.” When Peter was quoting the words of Christ from Matt. 21:42 he did not continue with the words of Christ in verse 43 that was spoken to the religious leaders of the nation that “The Kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” But Peter equated the Church to that people Jesus spoke of in Matt. 21:43; we are that chosen race a people for God’s own possession who will produce the fruit that God so desires.

How can those who put off the Kingdom deny Paul’s clear declaration to the Church at Colossae? Speaking of what God the Father has already accomplished for us IN Christ; “For he has rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son“ (Col. 1:13). Paul wrote this to 1st Century believers and it was past tense for them over 2000 years ago and it is still past tense for us today; done deal! To finish up let’s look at what John the Revelator had to say to seven churches of his day, and again John was writing to churches over 2000 years ago, and when you read these verse note the tense that he’s writing in:

 “And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father–to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:6).

 “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).

Church Paul taught us that “Those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:17). Everything God has given us is by grace through faith, if we’ll simply receive the fact of the Now Indwelling Kingdom of God that is ours IN Christ, how radically different our lives will be. How tragic to live in the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ and not even know what has already been accomplished for us by His finished work!

To Fill The Earth by voting Republican? I think not!

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One thing for sure the earth won’t be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God if the Republicans win the presidential election; but the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God if we preach Jesus. This is what His Church is to do and not get caught up in political debate that is doing nothing to unite the nation; only in the Message of Christ can America or any nation be redeemed.

2 Cor. 4:5-6; Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. “The Message”

2 Cor. 4:5-6; For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. “The New K.J.V.”

The Price Paul Paid To Manifest the Christ Life

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Are We Willing To Pay The Price For Miracles

That Paul Was Willing To Pay?

In 2 Cor. 4 Paul in writing to the Church of God at Corinth and gives them an in-depth understanding of his calling as an apostle. It is not glamorous, it’s not staying at 4 star hotels, and being waited on hand and foot. It’s not about building a large following of people and receiving large offerings; Paul only wanted people to follow him as he followed Christ. In this chapter he gives us a pretty good understanding of what it cost him to follow Christ as well as what it cost for the life of Christ to be manifested in his life; it’s not a romantic picture of life as a New Testament apostle as many people seem to envision apostolic today. Probably according to Paul’s own words concerning himself he would not fit the image of our well dressed, well heeled men, as well as women, who have seated themselves in the chair of 1st Century apostolic ministry today. Certainly Paul would never have seen himself as filling an office in the Body of Christ rather Paul saw his life’s work as an apostle as a function necessary for the Body of Christ to become fully functional to accomplish God’s purpose for her.

I am not saying I don’t believe in present day apostolic ministry today; I do. What I am saying is Paul knew and understood how the work of Christ is to be accomplished and it’s not in drawing attention to yourself and your ministry it’s by preparing the Bride for her Husband Christ (2 Cor. 11:1-3). Paul bore on his body the “brand-marks of Christ” and the “signs of a true apostle” where revealed in his life and ministry.

From my early days in the WOF churches and as my wife and I progressed through all the different movements that followed we heard “Jesus promised us we’d do greater works than He did’ and of course they were quoting from John 14:12; and I myself saw many new believers ,my wife and I included, lay hands on sick people and saw them healed (many times they just fell onto the floor and we just assumed they were healed); but we never moved into the magnitude of what we read in the Book of Acts and I do know that some actually did especially those who leave the comforts of our cushioned pews and go out into the nations; people like Paul willing to lay down their lives that the life of Christ Jesus might be revealed in them. Most of the works of Christ and of the 1st Century Church were not accomplished inside the four walls of their religious institutions it was down out in the highways and byways where the hurting ones are to be found. In fact every time Jesus and those who followed Him would do some great work in a synagogue, or later Paul’s life, they would be run out. So often the greater works require us to leave our comfort zones and go to where the tax gatherers and the really bad sinners dwell, you know the ones many don’t want in their nice, clean, and comfortable churches.

So as I continue to close this little essay I’ll quote from Paul what it took for the life of Christ to be manifested through his life, and ask the question Are we willing to pay that price?

Cast Down but Unconquered

2 Cor.4: 7-12

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.

Evaluating Valid New Testament Leadership

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 Evaluating Valid New Testament Leadership

 Matthew 23: 10-11 Amp. Text

10And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ.

11He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

The above verses taken from the Amplified Bible pretty well spells it out for us; “The greatest among you shall be your servant.”

True New Testament leadership is not in your Doctors or your Masters degrees nor is it in your ordination papers no matter what group or denomination ordained you; it’s in your desire to serve the Body of Christ. Jesus came to serve and not to be served though He was Master of all, Paul though called of God as an apostle quiet often used names describing his ministry as a slave or as a servant. Never did Paul use apostle as a title but always to show His function in the Body of Christ; in fact the ministry gifts were never meant to become offices but were always to reveal functions in the Body of Christ. Jesus established a brotherhood not an ecclesiastical hierarchy; “Do not be called ‘my master’, for One is Master or Instructor, and you are all brothers” (Matt. 23:8). Two systems used by men at the time of Christ He denounced in His earthly ministry one was the hierarchical style of governing used by the Romans and Gentiles of His day and still prevalent in world governments as well as in much of today’s church (Matt. 20:25-28). Then again in Matt. 23:1-12; He tore up and demolished the Jewish system of ranks, offices, and titles the whole Old covenant way of doing business.

His clear teaching in both Matt. 20 and 23 concerning both the Roman and Jewish way of governing and running things was “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” How do you teach others to serve? By first serving them just as Jesus taught His own disciples and they learn from following your clear example. Teaching others to serve, or to carry it a step farther the whole discipleship process, cannot be learned from a book or a Bible College classroom it comes through following the examples of those who have gone before us, the mature ones the elders.  In fact in the Acts account the elders or leaders in the infant Church at Pisidian Antioch were not appointed until well after the Church was birthed on Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas were forced to leave the city not long after the church was birthed and did not return to appointed elders until their return trip back to their starting point in Antioch. This church was left with no visible leadership of any kind yet out of life in the Body of Christ leaders seemed to emerge and later they were recognized by Paul and Barnabas and appointed as elders. Note Paul did not set a one-man rule pastor over this infant Church; instead they appointed elders those who had shown maturity in leading the flock while Paul and Barnabas were completing their missionary journey.

In Pet. 5: 1-5; Peter’s clear word to his fellow elders was lead by being “examples to the flock allotted to you.” (1). We also see Paul told the elders at Ephesus to follow the example both he and his company set for them while they ministered among them (Acts 20:17-35) and he also told those in the Church at Corinth “to imitate him as he imitated Christ” (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1).

If per chance you unfortunately don’t have anyone who has set this kind of example for you that does not hinder you from following the New Testament examples provided for us by first Jesus and then by the 1st Century apostolic fathers in your own life. Then as you follow the clear examples set for us in the Scripture; you in turn can be a much needed example for others new or less mature in the Lord to be able to imitate your lifestyle just as Paul to the Church at Corinth to imitate him. In doing so you will be serving the Body of Christ and whether anyone ever acknowledges you as a leader by giving you some office or position you’ll still qualify in Christ’s Church through simply humbling yourself and serving others.

God makes the call, then He qualifies the called!

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God makes the call, then He qualifies the called!

Paul (the 1st Century apostle) note I did not use apostle as his title as many like to do:) knew his qualification for ministry was not his own. Paul was called by God that his life might manifest Christ (Gal. 1:15-16). But God not only called Paul; He also qualified Paul for what proved to be Paul’s life work.

Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 3:5; “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”

Every since I can remember when someone said; “I feel God has called me in to ministry” they would be told by their pastor or some elder to go to Bible College and be trained. I wonder how that would set with Paul or the other 1st Century apostolic fathers? Would they agree? I think not; their training was in the crucible of life whether it be actually walking with Christ in His earthly ministry or in the really fiery crucible of life and relationships in a valid New Testament Church. The whole idea of be trained for professional ministry came long time after the 1st Century Church; we begin hearing of such schools 180 AD or so; schools that in their day would be the equivalent of a theological college or university of today.

Check out this quote from B.H. Streeter a 20th Century English Theologian and bible Scholar: “The Primitive Church had no Testament, no thought out theology, no stereotyped traditions. The men who took Christianity to the Gentile world had no special training, only a great experience…in which all maxims and philosophies were reduced to the simple task of walking in the Light since the Light had come.”

We Love Okinawa

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Believe it or not this is a gajyumaru-tree growing an old town area of the city we live in.

This is almost a thumbnail sized picture of Renaissance Resort a place i work at on occasion.

A sunset taken with my old d80 using a 50mm lens with what is supposed to be a wide angle attachment screwed onto the lens, great for macro though.

We’re Stupid If We Believe In God’s Word (Really?)

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We’re Stupid If We Believe In God’s Word (Really?)

Sorry not to be on very much my job keeps me jumping and with trying to deal with that and other pressing issues my time is pretty well consumed.

While driving here in Okinawa I have two choices listen to Japanese radio which I can not understand, American FM which is usually rock stuff which I no longer care, for or the AM station here which is brought to us through the Armed Forces Radio Network and usually consists of Public Broadcasting networks, both liberal and conservative radio talk show, and lots and lots of liberal bloggers who are being asked to give their opinion on the political process being played out now in America. To be honest what I’m hearing from both sides is ridiculous.

Yesterday I heard two news journalist discussing just how culturally backward, maybe better put stupid Southern Christian conservatives were? Both were liberal but on one much more so than the other; and I’m using the words conservative and liberal in light of the current political debates, and not in trying to trash one side or the other as I feel both sides have lead our nation farther into division and neither side politically has any real answers for America. Anyway this was a man, the more radical of the two, the other was a woman a southerner herself who was much more sympathetic to the South and it’s cultural values.

Their debate was over some recent polls showing what conservative Christian Southerners believe. The man was dumbfounded that anyone in today’s America could not believe in evolution and still hold to a creation or intelligent design view of the world. He presented the number on the polls he was quoting from and as I was in my car I don’t have the numbers he quoted, but she was quick to point out that people in other parts of the country not just the South held to what most people I know would call basic Christian beliefs or values. From his perspective we’re pretty dumb to have a faith centered system of belief and not rely on science for all of our answers.

My question simply put is this; who is really the stupid one the one who by faith believes and accepts God’s word or the one who relies on his or her intellect for all their answers?

Many of these news casters, talk show host, or whatever simply have no belief in the God we serve and consider us to be the fools but what does God’s word say? One is “The fools says in his/her heart there is no God,” and of course the words of Paul in Romans 1:18-32 and in 1 Cor. 18-31 just for starters. I find out I don’t have to be a genius or even a great theologian to be wise from God’s perspective i simply have to receive the free gift of His Son, if by that I’m deemed foolish and even suffer persecution by the world for what I believe so be it.

The Heaven’s Do Rule

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For all those caught up in the political debate with all the hate talk and junk that goes on remember this: “That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and (oh by the way) sets over it the lowliest of men.” (Dan. 4:17)

And by the way even kings who get caught up in their power and God given glory; thinking it is their own can easily be persuaded by God to change their minds. Later after Nebuchadnezzar got all puffed up thinking he had accomplished all his great kingdom’s glory and power by his own strength was humbled by Almighty God and after he had endured God’s chastisement for a prolonged period of time; he raised his eyes to heaven and blessed the Most High! God restored his kingdom to him, yet his son who observed all this soon forgot and God destroyed the kingdom and raise up another kingdom under Darius the Mede.

Don’t blame the devil (My thoughts of course)

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Don’t blame the devil, Obama, or politicians of either party for the problems in America or anywhere else for that matter. The anointing/grace to change a nation or nations for that matter has been invested IN us His Church, His Body; we must give Him His Headship back and become obedient to His commission to fill the earth with godly seed. The responsibility rest on us not on anyone else; don’t waste your time blaming the devil for God IN Christ has given us all power and authority over the best he/satan has to offer.

MORE CHURCHES face FORECLOSURE (What is the meaning of this?)

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MORE CHURCHES face FORECLOSURE
-by Electa Draper, The Denver Post.

A congregation losing its house of worship, once a rare event, is
now common in Colorado — part of a national trend of record
foreclosures on churches.

The real-estate information company CoStar Group looked at five
years of distressed church sales and found only a handful of
foreclosures nationwide prior to 2008, when the number jumped to
24. In 2009, the figure was 67.

CoStar Group spokeswoman Angela Brown said the market saw
a big spike in 2010 with 135 churches sold after a lender-initiated
foreclosure. In 2011, there were 138 such sales.

The states with the highest percentages of forced church sales
often were those with some of the worst home-foreclosure rates,
including California, Florida and Michigan.

In Colorado, church real-estate specialist Todd Whittaker, president
of Service Realty Inc. in Denver, says church foreclosures occur
with some regularity now… Other congregations are trying to sell
their buildings before it comes to that.

“We’re pretty active, but it’s because churches are struggling,”
Whittaker said. “Their offerings are way down. Churches need to
sell. We have 10 church listings in the Denver area, when normally
we have seven or eight, and they are moving slowly. Banks are
nervous about lending to churches right now… I don’t see an end
to this any time soon.”

Maybe It’s Time For A Picture Or Two

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Not going to label all of these. Some will be macro others river birds, or maybe a beach or two but all are Okinawa photos. Hope you enjoy; I use a variety of editing tools and sometimes just leave them as they were shot; but not often I love to play with sliders:)

I can’t resist: Flight deck is clear prepare for takeoff!

Taxes and Tithes

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I’m gonna get myself in trouble; perhaps it’s because I think too much and don’t just buy into all the right, or the left, wing chatter that comes daily through talk radio. Taxes always seem to be a sore point with the Republican party who seem to blame all of our woes as a nation on Obama and the Democrats, who in turn say; Whoa! Slow down here; we inherited all this mess from you guys and it’s taking us longer than we thought to get it all straightened out.”

I’m neither left nor right in the midst of all this political and what seems also to be religious debate that is not uniting the parties nor is it doing anything that I can tell to unite America; I see us as a prime example of the “house divided against itself” we have no place to go except down! One issue with the right is on taxes, they want government but on a smaller scale; I wonder when they were in power if government actually got smaller or did it grow even larger as they’re blaming Obama and the Democrat’s for doing? Anyway these are usually folks who are a part of some religious establishment who survive off the tithes of their members. Some prosper so much off of these tithes that we find the real estates values of their church property equals more than $240 billion dollars are about 18% of the $50 to $60 billion that their members tithe every year. These figures come from George Barna a Christian pollster and may or may not reflect other groups that call themselves Christian although many in the mainline of Christianity today would not accept them as Christian at all.

The point here is that the tithe which to most is 10% of their take home income was actually God’s Old Covenant tax to support the Levites who had no inheritance in the land; and if one is to practice the tithe as it was done in the Old Testament we actually find the yearly amount given by the people was more like 23.3% because we find there was also a 10% tax every year to support religious festivals which were usually held in Jerusalem. That accounts for 20% every year but every three years there was a tithe given for the local Levites, orphans, strangers, and widows which would amount to 23.3% of their income was given in tithes every year not counting freewill offerings for building the temple, etc., etc. (Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:21-31; Deut. 14:22-27; 14:28-29; 26:12-13)

These guys most of who are active in their institutional churches and faithfully pay the 10% and some more in building programs and missionary endeavors complain about paying taxes to support what they see as a rapidly expanding government under the Obama administration. (Personally I do not like higher and higher taxes myself but I know God’s word tells us to pay them so I do without too much complaint. [Rom. 13:1-8])

The reality is if we want government we must pay for it, if we want the programs government offers it will cost us sometimes through the nose. Samuel the Old Testament prophet told Israel exactly what would happen if they got the king they so desperately wanted so they could be just like all the nations who surrounded them. If you’ll read 1 Sam. 8:10-22 you’ll find what Samuel told the people about the cost of having their own king, and this would be on top of the 23.3% they paid yearly by their tithes and not counting any freewill offerings. WOW! the cost of government ain’t cheap.

But please note that under God’s system of tithes the needs of the poor and needy were meet. Israel had their own welfare program probably dealt out by the Levites to meet the needs of the poor. Perhaps that is why after the Day of Pentecost had come in Acts 4:32-37 the 1st Century believers had no problems in selling their property and sharing with those among themselves, this money was not laid at the apostle’s feet to pay their salaries it was given to meet the needs of the believers. They didn’t take the money and build a really big place for the growing community of believers to meet, they took care of their own.

Today it’s up the Federal Government to deal out welfare to the needy while the Church spends billions on buildings that meet the materialistic needs of the people but aren’t necessarily God’s will. We don’t complain too much (at least not most Christians I know) about giving tithes and building offerings but we do complain about our nations welfare state and high taxes; perhaps if we went back to the 1st Century practice of being the Church and providing for the poor instead of taking our money to build such costly buildings we call “The House of God” and invested it in helping the poor and needy we might be more in line with the will of God. If instead of protesting around abortion clinics we’d use our vast resource to help these women raise or at lest to find homes for their babies Americans wouldn’t need an organization called Planned Parenthood? In fact if you read your New Testament carefully you’d see the heart of Jesus to help the poor and needy, you’d see the 1st Century Church never asked for a tithe and the only time I see money being raised it was to help the saints in Jerusalem during a troublesome time. Jesus said we were to be “Salt and light that people would see our good works and glorify God.” Problem is they can’t see our good works while they’re living in hurt and despair and we’re meeting in our elaborate buildings with stained glass and tall steeples.

Religion vs Christianity (true biblical Christianity that is).

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2012-3-18
Religion vs Christianity (true biblical Christianity that is).

Recently a Christian friend of ours husband died. For many year this precious lady lived with an abusive husband; abusive not only verbally but physically as well. For a long time now my wife has been trying to help her; most often just by being there to listen, and to offer counsel when necessary and to pray for her.

This lady is from mainland Japan her husband was from Okinawa. She was from an Evangelical Christian background but her sister on the mainland is the pastor of a Pentecostal Church. Many times throughout this abusive marriage she would go to her sister for help and advice and most often what she would receive was books on praying in tongues and building up her faith. Her sister would continually tell her IF you pray in tongues and IF you had more faith none of these bad things would happen to you. By bad things I refer to the fact that our friends husband had a business that was failing and he placed the whole burden of this upon his wife who kept the books; she ran the business did the jobs but the failure was his wife’s he never bore up to his own responsibility.

Along with all these problems she stayed not believing divorce was an option. She fixed meals, helped with his mother who has dementia and helped raise their son’s children as well as her own. The husband would not take care of himself smoking, drinking, and over eating. He was overweight, had high blood pressure, as well as sugar diabetes yet would make no effort to control his diet or lifestyle. He was continually stressed out, and live in continual depression striking our in fits of anger at his wife and son with no control over himself. Even his own brother sided with the wife saying it’s not good for you but please stay and help him.

But on day this came to a head and his body gave out; he suffered a massive stroke and it lead to his death; then is when religion set in from two entirely different camps the extreme views of her Pentecostal sister, the pastor, and the totally non-Christian beliefs of the Okinawan people who are bound up in their cultures way of dealing with death and burial. Our friend whose husband had been the first son and by Okinawan custom should have taken in the family altar had refused to do so and had raised quite a stir at that time was now the one at fault, her dead husband’s family put all the fault on her as well as controlling the whole funeral and giving her no say. When my wife and I went to see her at the hospital after her husband died they denied us any access to her, and we were not able to see her except at a distance at the funeral and then it was a few weeks later when we finally got to see her and she was in horrible depression. (She is slowly improving but there is still a long way to go due to all the problems she inherited from his pretty well bankrupt estate).

Not only this but back to her dear Pentecostal sister who informed her that IF she had only prayed in tongues and had more faith her husband would not have died and none of this would have happened.

Simple compassion for this precious lady could have made a world of difference but religion supposedly Christian and non-Christian revealed itself for what it really is unkind and totally uncaring for the hurting one Jesus came to save.

Romans :28-29

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Rom. 8:28-29

Why all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Because He takes every circumstance no matter how bad it may or every circumstance no matter how trying and uses it for a purpose; to conform us into the image of His Dear Son. One thing we forget when we tell Father we want to be more like Jesus is that Jesus the very Son of God, God in the flesh, learned obedience through the things He suffered. How much we really want to be like Jesus depends on how much we’re willing daily to take up our cross and follow Him.

Bigger and Better Buildings

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Most secular people as well as a good many Christian people still see the Church as a building. They’ve never been taught that the Church Jesus is building is not made with bricks and mortar it is made up of “living stones’ just like you and me; many who have been burnt in the fire of trying to be a good Christian but never quite living up to the expectations of the established Church system. Take heart Jesus will build His Church, the gates of hell will not prevent it; and His Church will take on the image of the One who builds it and not the man or the denomination who is building according to their blueprints and not the blueprints shown us in the New Testament.

Billy Graham’s Stunning Prophecy

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Billy Graham’s Stunning Prophecy

The following quote was authored by Billy Graham in the year 1965. Many believe that his prediction is coming to pass in our time. What say you?

Multitudes of Christians within the church are moving toward the point where they may reject the institution that we call the church. They are beginning to turn to more simplified forms of worship. They are hungry for a personal and vital experience with Jesus Christ. They want a heartwarming personal faith. Unless the church quickly recovers its authoritative Biblical message, we may witness the spectacle of millions of Christians going outside the institutional church to find spiritual food.

Quoted in “World Aflame,” pp. 79-80.

Here is another priceless quote by Graham:

I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve men around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price. It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laymen who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them. I know one or two churches that are doing that, and it is revolutionizing the church. Christ, I think, set the pattern. He spent most of his time with twelve men. He didn’t spend it with a great crowd. In fact, every time he had a great crowd it seems to me that there weren’t too many results. The great results, it seems to me, came in his personal interview and in the time he spent with the twelve.

Quoted in “Billy Graham Speaks: The Evangelical World Prospect,” Christianity Today, vol.3, no.1, p.5, Oct.13, 1958.

Viola on Five-Fold Ministry

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Frank’s thoughts on 5-fold ministry gifts lines up with my own thoughts and he adds a dimension I didn’t know and that is the history of this term. I was in the s0-called New apostolic Movement” for a time until I grew tired of the control these so-called apostles exercised over those who were supposedly under their coverings. So I posted this for those who do and for those who do not know of some of the stuff taking place in the Charismatic Church:)

Rethinking the Five-Fold Ministry
By Frank Viola

I’m often asked: “Frank, do you believe in ‘the five-fold ministry’? And do you believe that God is restoring it today?” In this post, I will attempt to answer that question.

First off, my answer is largely hinged on what one means by “the five-fold ministry.” In other words, what “five-fold ministry” are we talking about? Are we talking about the two-hundred-year old doctrine of the restoration of “the five-fold ministry?” Or are we talking about the ascension gifts that Paul had in mind when he penned Ephesians 4:9–16?
The Making of a Doctrine Fivefold ministry

In nineteenth-century England, Christians were ripe to embrace apocalyptic prophecies about the coming Millennial Age. The upheaval that the French Revolution produced left God’s people wishing for a reign of peace that would set all things right.

In 1824, Edward Irving, a Presbyterian pastor in Scotland, began teaching that “the five-fold ministry” of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers had disappeared from the church and was in need of restoration. According to Irving, the restoration of these ministries would usher in the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on the earth.

Irving and his followers began the Catholic Apostolic Church in 1832. Its chief purpose was to restore “the five-fold ministry” and usher in the Millennial Kingdom. The Church ordained twelve “apostles” who were to be the last days equivalent of the original Twelve whom Jesus appointed. Henry Drummond, a wealthy banker from England, became the leader of the Church. Drummond himself took the highest position—“apostle to Scotland.”

It was prophesied that these “twelve apostles” would be the last apostles to appear on earth before Christ’s return. (This is a throwback to Mani of Persia of the third century who labeled himself the “Apostle of Light”—the very last apostle of Jesus.)

Eventually the twelve apostles of the Catholic Apostolic Church died (the last one dying in 1901). Upon their death, the Church expired in England. In Germany, however, the Catholic Apostolic Church ordained twelve more apostles and took the name the “New Apostolic Church.”

In 1896, an erstwhile Congregational minister named John Alexander Dowie founded the Christian Catholic Church. In 1901, with five thousand followers, Dowie established the “City of Zion” in north-east Illinois. In 1904, Dowie announced that he had been divinely commissioned to be the “First Apostle.” He then told his followers to anticipate the full restoration of apostolic Christianity. In 1906, the community of believers in the City of Zion began to break down. Dowie passed away the following year.

Following the famed Azusa Street revival in 1906 in Los Angeles, California, the emphasis on the restoration of “the five-fold ministry” and “a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit just before the return of Christ” reappeared. And a new generation of apostles emerged. Luigi Francescon (“apostle to Italy”), Ivan Voronaev (“apostle to the Slavs”), and T.B. Barratt (“apostle to Europe”) were just some of them. Pentecostal denominations in Wales, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States elected and ordained colleges of apostles to govern their denominations.

As the years rolled on, the restoration of “the five-fold ministry” doctrine somewhat faded. But it reemerged again with a revival spawned at Sharon Orphanage in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1948. The “New Order of the Latter Rain” movement, as it was called, was prophesied to restore “the five-fold ministry” to prepare for “the manifestation of the sons of God” on the earth.

But when the waters of revival receded, the restoration of “the five-fold ministry” doctrine faded again until it was resuscitated in the Charismatic Movement of the late 1960s. In the late 70s, the doctrine’s flame began to dim again until a group of men resurrected it with new fervor in the mid-1990s.

In 1996, Peter Wagner led a conference at Fuller Theological Seminary entitled the National Symposium on the “Post-Denominational Church.” This conference produced a new movement called the “New Apostolic Movement,” which Wagner claims is sweeping the globe with a new way of doing church. The churches that are part of this movement are being labeled “New Apostolic Churches.”

In 1999, Wagner sought to organize the movement under the name “International Coalition of Apostles” with Wagner as the “Presiding Apostle.” The movement claims to be restoring “the five-fold ministry” today.

Parenthetically, the churches in the new apostolic movement are vanilla Charismatic institutional churches replete with the office of modern pastor (often renamed “apostle”), Sunday sermons, pulpit, pews, church buildings, the five hundred year-old order of worship, music led by a worship team, etc. (See Pagan Christianity for the origin of these religious practices.)

Point: The doctrine of the restoration of “the five-fold ministry” is over 180 years old. And it’s been repackaged from movement to movement.
Running the Cart Over the Horse

So is God going to restore “the five-fold ministry”? To my mind, that’s the wrong question. It’s pushing the cart before the horse. The ascension gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 are gifted people who God gives to the body of Christ as gifts. They are the natural outgrowth and by-product of organic church life.

All in all, there are twenty gifts mentioned in the New Testament. If a group of believers gathers around Jesus Christ alone (rather than a doctrine, a theological system, or a ritual)—and they are void of a clergy system—then that group will eventually produce all the gifts and gifted ones that exist within the body of Christ.

It’s no mistake that Paul uses the human physical body as an apt image to describe the way the body of Christ functions. When a baby girl is born, most of her physical capabilities are not present. She can’t ride a bicycle, add and subtract numbers, or eat with a fork and knife.

However, within her body, she possesses the genetic codes that will produce the physical development by which to carry out these capabilities. If she is fed and nurtured properly, in time, these abilities will naturally develop within her. She will organically grow into them. Why? Because they are organic to her species as a human being. They are the product of human life.

In the same way, when an organic church is born, it possesses within its spiritual DNA all the giftings that are in Jesus Christ. But it takes time for them to develop and emerge. (Unfortunately, we live in a day when many church leaders don’t seem to understand this spiritual principle. Hence, they try to force the exercise of gifts and ministries in the body prematurely.)

What is needed, then, is not a restoration of the so-called “five-fold ministry.” What’s needed is the restoration of organic church life. And that is what God is seeking to restore today as He has in every generation.

Therefore, if we can discover how a church is born from God’s perspective and how it is to be nurtured and maintained, then we will see a restoration of all the gifts that are in Christ in the way that they were meant to be expressed. (For a detailed discussion on how churches were planted and sustained in the New Testament, see Finding Organic Church.)

Since I’ve been meeting in organic churches over the last twenty years, I’ve made a startling discovery: The gifts of the Holy Spirit function very differently in an organic expression of the church than they do in the typical institutional church. The gift of prophecy, for example, that comes up out of the soil of authentic body life looks profoundly different from the way it’s packaged in the typical Pentecostal/Charismatic church. (The latter is often based on imitating others.)

In the 1980s, I was part of a spontaneous expression of organic church life. Most of us who were gathering at that time came from the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition. We functioned freely in spiritual gifts as they were modeled to us by that tradition. A number of years later a group whose background was anti-Pentecostal/Charismatic joined us, and we had a first-class dilemma on our hands.

After a blood-letting church split, the Lord graciously showed us that both groups needed to lay down their beliefs and practice of spiritual gifts and leave them at the foot of the cross.Though it was difficult, we let our ideas and practice of the gifts go into death.

In a year’s time, something remarkable happened. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were resurrected in our gatherings. However, they looked very different from what any of us had ever seen before. The Pentecostal/Charismatic packaging was utterly stripped away. And what was left was a pure expression of the Holy Spirit that glorified, unveiled, and lifted up the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, the two groups came into a unified experience of the Holy Spirit’s power and work.

Consequently, the pressing question is: Are we going to get serious about discovering how to gather around Jesus Christ in an organic way? Or are we going to blithely ignore New Testament principle and for the next two hundred years continue to hope (and prophesy) that “the five-fold ministry” will one day be restored?

Again, God’s way of raising up the ascension gifts is by restoring organic body life. The ascension gifts don’t magically appear because someone writes a book prophesying that they’re just around the corner. Nor should we assume that they have been restored when someone claims to be the “First,” the “Last,” or the “New Apostle.”

Authentic apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherd/teachers are gifted people who grow up in organic churches—not as leaders, but as brethren—equal in status to everyone else in the church. Because they have grown up out of the soil of authentic church life, they have been tested and proven to be safe to the Kingdom of God and to the Lord’s children. Their outstanding landmark is that they glorify, reveal, present, magnify, and bring into clear view the Lord Jesus Christ in unusual depths and practical experience.

This is the heritage of the Ephesians 4 ascension gifts. It was true for all the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds/teachers in the first century. And Jesus Christ has not changed (Heb. 13:8).
The Peril of a Wrong Environment

So what happens when gifted Christians are reared in a human organization built on unbiblical systems rather than growing up naturally in an organic expression of the body of Christ? To put it another way, what happens when a gifted Christian’s only experience is in the modern institutional church?

The answer? Mixture with a capital M.

Add to that a footnote: Malfunction.

What happens when you remove polar bears out of their natural habitat? If they survive (and some do not), they cannot function as God designed. They lose their ability to reproduce.

What happens when lions are caged and domesticated from birth? They lose their predatory and killer instincts. They lose something of the natural functioning with which God wired them.

Over the past decade, I’ve met scores of men who were self-proclaimed prophets and apostles. Some were genuinely gifted. Some had the gift of teaching. Others had authentic gifts of healing. Others had a genuine operation of the word of knowledge.

But most lacked any real depth in Christ and very little experience in embracing His cross. And few of them grasped God’s eternal purpose or witnessed real, thriving, healthy organic church life.

Why is this? Because of the institution that raised them up. Or, in some cases, because they raised themselves up in isolation from other Christians. (The latter is an equally abnormal environment for a Christian to be nurtured in.)

To put it in a sentence, such men didn’t grow up in their proper habitat. Few if any of them grew up in organic body life where they were simply brothers among other brothers. Few if any spent any time in a New Testament expression of church life where their weaknesses and blindspots were exposed to others. Instead, most were part of several institutional churches and launched out into independent ministry on their own. As Watchman Nee once observed, “The tragedy in Christian work today is that so many of the workers have simply gone out, they have not been sent.”

The New Testament never envisions such a situation.

To place my concern into a question, where are the churches that the “new apostles” have planted that are gathering under the headship of Jesus Christ without a clergy, where the members know one another deeply and are experiencing a depth in Christ, where decisions are made by consensus, and where every member functions in the meetings without any man controlling, directing, facilitating, or dominating?

Still more disappointing, every titled “apostle” in the new apostolic movement that I know of fiercely defends those church practices that are rooted in pagan tradition and have been hindering the headship of Jesus Christ and the full functioning of His body for the last eighteen hundred years. (If you don’t understand that last sentence, I refer you to my book, Pagan Christianity.) For these reasons, I’m monumentally unimpressed with the “new apostolic movement.”
What Are the Ascension Gifts?

When the ascension gifts emerge organically in a local assembly, their chief function is to nurture and encourage the believing community toward spiritual maturity in Christ, unity, and every-member functioning.

I will now try to demystify the so-called “five-fold ministry” and discuss how each of the ascension gifts probably functioned in the first century:

Apostles. Apostles were extra-local, traveling, itinerant church planters. They were highly gifted individuals who were sent by the Lord and by a particular church to plant and equip new churches. Apostles enabled the church by giving it birth, raising it up from the ground. They also helped it walk on its own two feet. Apostles grew up in an organic expression of church life as non-leaders before they were sent out to plant churches of the same kind. In other words, they first experienced what they would later establish elsewhere. And they always left the churches they planted on their own without installing a clergy or religious ritual.

Prophets. Prophets were people who had a clear vision of Jesus Christ and who were able to articulate it lucidly. Prophets enabled the church by speaking the present word of the Lord to it. Sometimes their words would simply reveal Christ to encourage, inspire, and comfort. Other times their words would cast spiritual vision. Prophets sought to restore God’s will whenever it had been lost. They sometimes confirmed the gifts and callings of other members and prepared the church for future trials.

Evangelists. Evangelists enabled the church by modeling the preaching of the good news to the lost. They were fearless souls who possessed an extraordinary boldness to share Christ with nonbelievers. And they had a genuine passion for the unsaved. The closest equivalent to an evangelist today is a natural-born salesman (an honest one of course).

Shepherd/teachers. Shepherd/teachers are two sides of the same gift. In Ephesians 4:11, the apostles, prophets, and evangelists are mentioned separately, while shepherds and teachers are joined together. Further, the first three ministries (apostles, prophets, and evangelists) are preceded by the word “some.” But the word “some” is attached to shepherds and teachers together. This indicates that shepherds/teachers are one gift.

The chief task of the shepherds/teachers was to help the church in times of personal crisis (shepherding) and to enlighten and cultivate the church’s spiritual life by revealing Christ through the exposition of Scripture (teaching). Shepherding was the private side of their ministry; teaching was the public side. The closest equivalent to a first-century shepherd/elder is a modern-day Christian counselor who is capable of teaching.

None of the ascension gifts dominated the meetings of the church. They were simply brothers and sisters in the body carrying out certain functions. Every other member functioned in the gatherings and in the community-life of the church. (See Reimagining Church for details on how the New Testament church functioned and its application for today.) In that connection, you would never see a first-century Christian sporting titles like “Apostle Delaquarius Epps,” “Prophetess Pamela Jones,” or “Evangelist Tarianna Dunson.” As I’ve established elsewhere, the use of honorific titles and offices were unknown to the early Christians.
Answering the Call

The burden of my heart is to see God’s people far less concerned with a “five-fold ministry” that’s supposed to be recovered someday and instead, focus their attention on discovering what the church is supposed to be according to the mind of God. Upon making this discovery, the Lord’s dear people will be faced with a decision. To answer the call of meeting around Jesus Christ alone in the way that He has prescribed. Or to remain chained to the unmovable traditions of men.

If the former path is taken, it will involve considerable cost. But all the giftings in Christ will eventually come forth in the way that He has designed organically. And those gifts will never usurp or dilute the ministry of the entire body.

Would to God that all men and women who feel called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds/teachers would soberly reexamine what these ministries were in the first century and in the thought of God. I believe that when this happens, many of them will be led into brand new directions. And those directions will undoubtedly lead them to break with cherished traditions and popular concepts. Yet only by these elements will the house of God begin to be restored on a broad scale.

The Heavens Do Rule

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The Heavens Do Rule

‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers,
And the sentence by the word of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,
Gives it to whomever He will,
And sets over it the lowest of men.’
Dan. 4:17
The point here is God is on the Throne, He rules no matter what men or governments may say.

The Messiah’s Triumph and Kingdom
Psalms Chapter 2 
1 Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
6 “Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
7 “I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
12  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
These verses will do us well as we approach election time with all the anger and hate that is spewing forth from both the Christian right and the Liberal left; Romans 13: 1-7 in fact the whole chapter should be a great encouragement for us as believers it’s God who sets governing authorities in place for whatever reason He so desires.

Paul gave us great advice and it should be apart of every meeting we have as New Covenant believers it’s found in 1 Tim. 2:1-4. We should pray for the leaders God puts in authority whether we agree with their politics or not. Why? “So we can lead tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity,” then Paul goes on to say; “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”